I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and have been collecting insulators since 1998. My collecting interests are CALIFORNIA and C.G.I.Co. embossed glass insulators and fogbowl style porcelain insulators. I am a member of the National Insulator Association and Nor-Cal Insulator Club, currently serving as Nor-Cal's President.
This is a brief history of my "firsts" in the 4 years I have collected insulators.
While disposing of my uncle's estate, I discovered that eBay was a good way of marketing and selling merchandise no one wanted locally and a good way to pick up some extra cash. I was at a garage sale in Willow Glen, an older part, of San Jose looking for eBay items to sell when I discovered a bucket of old bottles and telephone insulators. The seller begged me to buy them. She and her husband discovered them in the basement of a former house in Gilroy. They had moved several times since then and her husband insisted she keep the bucket and its contents until they were sold. I bought the bucket of glass for the bottles. The insulators were all clear or aqua Hemi's, W/T's and Armstrong's.
My first one was a sage green CD166...this was before I started collecting Californias. I still have it!!! Kept it because it had 2 good-size skirt bubbles which fuse together in the skirt. I bought it at Nicklebee's Antique Store in Cupertino, which was within walking distance of my workplace. This prove to be a defining moment because the antique dealer was Jeanne Sickler a long-time bottle digger and member of the San Jose Bottle Club. She invited me to a meeting to hear a presentation about insulators given by long-time collector Glenn Sievert.
A-1 Auction Services was auctioning off a 70-year old Willow Glen estate of a collecting couple who collected everything. I found three crates of insulators: glas and porcelain that were probably sitting in the backyard for 30+ years. Didn't know what I was buying, but had to have it. It would have quadrupled the size of my collection. Another crazy person there tried to outbid me and we ran up the bid to $150 before she bowed out. A lot of gasps from the crowd of mostly antique dealers who were amazed by the bid level. Filthy glass and porcelain covered in dirt, bugs and spiders. Put my purchase on the lawn and took a hose to it the next day. One of my fondest memories was hand washing that collection of insulators with my two daughters in the front yard. It was an amazing sight for a newbie collector to see all that glass and porcelain lined up in the front yard. Nothing really great in that lot. Best finds were a Locke CD275, two Locke crosstops made by Imperial Porcelain Works(?) and a foreign glass insulator (the only one) I still know nothing about.
The first collector I met was Glenn Sievert at the San Jose Bottle Club meeting. Glenn is one of the deans of insulator collectors here in the San Francisco Bay Area with probably 35 years of experience in the hobby. He gave a fantastic presentation on insulators from its earliest days to the present. Had examples of everything and voluminous knowledge. For a newbie, it was an eye-opening introduction.
I was building my California collection from mainly eBay purchases. I had purchased several from a guy called sfsawdust on eBay. He seemed to know what he was talking about so I started an email dialog with him. Turns out it was Brent Burger of Spokane, WA who was a big Cal collector in the early 1980's. He invited me to come up several times to go Cal hunting which was very enticing but he lived so far away. I learned some stuff from Brent... still do. Back then I remember the charm of his prose. He was just starting to get into this internet groove and his replies were only one paragraph long ;-)
I had recently purchased about 80 pieces from a 20-year collection assembled by a San Jose-based P.G.& E. lineman. There were a lot of colored McLaughlins that I could not ID. I invited myself to Fred Padgett's house in Livermore to get some help and view his collection. It was another mind-blowing experience and I saw only what was in the house and garage. All manner of McLaughlins and Maydwell... ever see an actual insulator mold? Fred has the one William McLaughlin used to make his commemoratives. There were half a dozen or more citrines in all shades. Ever see a CD 164 Maydwell in apple green? Fred is another fountain of knowledge and a great story teller as well.
The first show I attended was the Golden Gate Historical Bottle Society Show in Antioch, CA. I had enough glass from the two collections I purchased to be a dealer at the show as well as a buyer. I got there on time, which is late for a dealer, and started unloading my sales stock. Everyone knew I was a newbie... like fresh meat for vultures. A bunch of dealers came over looking for EC&Ms, Cal Elect. Works, threadless. I didn't have any; they disperse just as quickly.
I meet Glenn Adkins at the Antioch Show. When I told him I collected Cals, he whips out a photo album to show me his collection. He showed me his pride and joys much like a parent shows off photos of his kids. I thought it was really weird at the time. Glenn is a great guy. He has been in the hobby for awhile and has a lot of great stories about the early days. One of my favorites is his story about going out to the railroad lines to pick the purple W/T's and leaving the aqua Cal. Elect. Works insulators behind because the purple ones were much easier to sell.
My first ICON contact was also at the Antioch Show. I met another CAL collector at the show and we started talking about eBay. I started complaining about an eBay sniper by the name of Ian Macky who always managed to get in a winning bid no matter how little time I left on the auction clock. Yeah... the guy I was talking to was Ian. He introduced me to the local community of collectors and told me I had to get on ICON where I am today.
Colin Jung, NIA #7055
Last updated Sunday, December 14, 2003
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